ROME – The visit to Central America by the United Nations World Food Programme Executive Director, David Beasley renews the U.N. World Food Programme’s commitment to working with vulnerable communities, offering them sustainable livelihoods and food security in their villages, giving them reasons to stay at home and reducing migration. During his visit Beasley met families affected by climate change coupled with job losses and rising inequality, a fallout of COVID-19.
“When you don’t have food to feed your children, when you don’t have money to buy medicines you are pushed into desperation,” said Beasley. “People don’t want to leave their homes, they are being forced to.”
Hunger in Central America has quadrupled over the past two years, with 8 million people now hungry. Of this figure, 1.7 million people are in the ‘Emergency’ category of food insecurity meaning they require urgent food assistance.
The rise in hunger has coincided with a doubling in the number of people planning to migrate. A U.N. World Food Programme assessment conducted in January 2021 saw at least 15 percent of people surveyed wanting to migrate as compared to only eight percent in 2018.
“You are hearing about all the migration. People have lost their jobs. They have lost their hope. We urgently need to help people with food as well as long-term development that requires more than a piecemeal approach,” said Beasley.
It costs the United States close to $4,000 per person, per week to support migrant teenagers and children at the border while it costs the U.N. World Food Programme between $1 and $2 per person, per week to support people in Central America through our resilience projects.
“Sustainable livelihoods, strengthened resilience and self-reliant communities are the U.N. World Food Programme’s priorities in Central America. We want people to have hope in their future, faith in their lands and opportunities at home,” said Beasley.
The U.N. World Food Programme’s resilience building work was the focus of Beasley’s visit to Honduras and Guatemala. The U.N. World Food Programme provides technical and financial support to communities so they adapt their production to a changing climate and can generate more income. Farmers improve their methods, diversify their crops and also their livelihoods.
Multi-year programs with small-scale farmers in Central America have helped communities harvest water, build irrigation systems, greenhouses and nurseries. Farmers aim to harvest a variety of crops year-round. Alternatives also include poultry farms, fisheries, honey, hammock production etc.
With food and cash, the U.N. World Food Programme is also reaching families affected by Hurricanes Eta and Iota that upended lives throughout Central America in November 2020, as well as thousands of vulnerable families dealing with job losses in urban and rural areas, a fallout of COVID-19.
Beasley’s mission also included a trip to Haiti where he saw the U.N. World Food Programme’s work with rural communities, rehabilitating salt basins and increasing productivity. He also saw the U.N. World Food Programme’s ongoing preparedness activities ahead of the upcoming hurricane season in June.
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ROME – Hunger in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua has increased almost fourfold over the past two years – from 2.2 million people in 2018 to close to 8 million people in 2021 – a result of the economic crisis caused by COVID-19 and years of extreme climate events. Of this figure, 1.7 million people are in the ‘Emergency’ category of food insecurity and require urgent food assistance.
“Considering the level of destruction and setbacks faced by those affected, we expect this to be a long and slow recovery,” said Miguel Barreto, United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean. “2020 was a year to forget across the world, and even more so for communities in Central America that were dealt a series of blows.”
With homes and farms destroyed, food stocks running low and job opportunities shrinking, nearly 15 percent of people surveyed by the U.N. World Food Programme in January 2021 said that they were making concrete plans to migrate. In a 2018 post-drought assessment only eight percent of respondents indicated they were planning to migrate.
The record 2020 Atlantic hurricane season dealt a severe blow to millions who were previously relatively untouched by hunger, among them people dependent on the service economy, tourism and informal jobs. Hurricanes Eta and Iota that struck Central America in November 2020 upended the lives of 6.8 million people who lost their homes and livelihoods.
The hurricanes destroyed about 500,000 acres of staple food and cash crops in the four countries and around 25,000 acres of coffee farmland in Honduras and Nicaragua. The hurricanes struck as these communities were already dealing with job losses and a shrinking economy, a fallout of COVID-19.
The U.N. World Food Programme surveys estimate that food security in Central America nosedived as a result of COVID-19. The number of households that did not have enough to eat during COVID-19 nearly doubled in Guatemala compared to pre-pandemic numbers. In Honduras, it increased by more than 50 percent. An overwhelming majority of households in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador reported income losses or unemployment during the pandemic.
“Urban and rural communities in Central America have hit rock bottom. The COVID-19-induced economic crisis had already put food on the market shelves out of reach for the most vulnerable people when the twin hurricanes Eta and Iota battered them further,” said Barreto. “Many now have nowhere to live and are staying in temporary shelters, surviving on next to nothing.”
Communities in Central America have borne the brunt of a climate emergency, where consecutive years of drought and erratic weather have disrupted food production – especially staples like maize and beans, which depend heavily on regular rainfall.
The U.N. World Food Programme calls on the international community to support its efforts in Central America to provide urgent humanitarian assistance and to invest in long-term development projects and national social protection programs that help vulnerable communities withstand recurrent weather extremes and economic shocks.
The U.N. World Food Programme plans to assist 2.6 million people in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua in 2021 and requires $47.3 million over the next six months.
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The U.N. World Food Programme is the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate. We are the world’s largest humanitarian organization, saving lives in emergencies and using food assistance to build a pathway to peace, stability and prosperity for people recovering from conflict, disasters and the impact of climate change.
Follow us on Twitter @WFPUSA; @wfp_media; @wfp_es
For more information please contact (email address: email@example.com):
Shaza Moghraby, WFP/New York, Mob. + 1 929 289 9867
Steve Taravella, WFP/ Washington, Mob. +1 202 770 5993
ROME – Millions of people in Central America urgently need food assistance in the wake of Hurricane Eta, one of the worst storms in decades, as fears grow of another storm brewing in the coming days.
Heavy rains, high winds, deadly landslides and floods unleashed by Eta after making landfall in Nicaragua earlier this month killed dozens of people, destroyed infrastructure and hurt rural livelihoods along its path in Central America, including in Belize, Guatemala and Honduras.
“Eta arrived at the worst time, making life harder for millions of people already hard hit by years of erratic weather and the socioeconomic crisis COVID-19 caused. We are also concerned that more heavy rain and flooding can destroy the upcoming harvest subsistence farmers depend on to survive,” said Miguel Barreto, Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean.
Eta was the 28th hurricane in an already record-setting season. The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration warns that there is a high chance another storm will form in the coming days.
The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) used internal resources to preposition food, scale up current operations focused on people affected by COVID-19, and mobilize teams to respond to the emergency in the most affected areas in Central America.
The hurricane compounds hunger already deepened by the coronavirus. Before the pandemic, the Dry Corridor of Central America (El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua) saw five years of prolonged drought and failed crops due to erratic weather patterns, which left smallholder farmers, day laborers and their families’ food insecure.
The U.N. World Food Programme predicts the number of people with severe food insecurity in the Dry Corridor could increase from more than 1.6 million in 2019 to close to 3 million in 2020, due to the socioeconomic fallout of COVID-19.
“To prevent the situation from becoming a larger humanitarian crisis, the U.N. World Food Programme calls for increased support from donors,” said Barreto.
An initial assessment indicates that our immediate funding needs to support the most vulnerable people are approximately $13.2 million. This figure is expected to increase over the next few weeks as the extent of Eta’s impact becomes clearer.
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The United Nations World Food Programme is the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate. We are the world’s largest humanitarian organization, saving lives in emergencies and using food assistance to build a pathway to peace, stability and prosperity for people recovering from conflict, disasters and the impact of climate change. | Follow us on Twitter @WFPUSA and @wfp_media
For more information, contact:
- Shaza Moghraby, WFP/New York, Shada.Moghraby@wfp.org, Mob. + 1 929 289 9867
- Steve Taravella, WFP/ Washington, Steve.Taravella@wfp.org, Mob. +1 202 770 5993